Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Light of Liberty and The Shadow America Refuses to See

At the core of America's history, in the armature of the collective social structure, are the issues of race and class. If the light is justice, liberty and opportunity, the shadow is race and class. Built as we were on slavery, a civil war, and failed reconstruction, the civil rights movement brought the conversation forward: Obama's presidency suggested how far we have come and Trump's how we have utterly failed.

White working class people took the racist bait as the majority always has (and since the Nixon shift of the political parties) and rather than align their economic interests with others suffering similarly went with race over class. In effect, the plantation owners, especially in the form of Wall Street, convinced under informed whites to side with them economically and appealed to their basest racist instincts to seal the deal. You gotta hand it to Republicans, I mean the way they made their case without being so _explicitly_ racist as to make their exurban voters feel uncomfortable and then con them with "class warfare", tax cuts, fear of the socialists, and the rest. You gotta hand it to Democrats for being so astonishingly inept, tone deaf to their own messages, and so incapable of making their own case, both on social justice grounds and pocketbook classism.

With Trump doing rallies for 2018, Republicans are invited to take the shameless road to racism, no dog-whistling required: we are the party of white people, those other people are for "them." The argument among Democrats is whether to expose this racist Republican narrative plainly for its moral depravity or to pivot on class issues. To wit, do they appeal to white working class people by telling them this is not who they are or who they want to be as human beings or do they try to tell them they are getting conned, ripped off, and not helped by incompetent Republican government that does not share their economic interests. It's not quite this simple since so many are driven by their particular peeve that determines their pet: guns, Jesus, the flag, you pick, but it is a not insignificant fact now that Trump, Rosanne, and the rest are out doing their job.

You would think that shame and decency would have a pull on white Protestant society, especially on those who share a non-mainline church heritage given their religious claims as "Christians." But I think we underestimate how religion has been used to foster racism and particularly the ways in which Christianity has been used in America to bolster and justify the very core of Trumpism in all its various forms of unabashed and debased immorality. Evangelical Christians are not being hypocrites, they are doing what _they have always done_. They are using religion to advance white supremacy both explicitly and nowadays more implicitly because that's what's required.

During the Civil War the Confederacy and northern Democrats (then the party of explicit racism) both argued that liberating the slaves would bring the moral ruin of the nation and used "miscegenation," a term in fact _invented_ for the purposes of creating racist fear, as their _policy_. To wit, _those_ people will come, they will steal your children, marry into your families, take your culture--- this Trumpist argument, now the Republican Party, is _not new_. Democrats today are not by any measure free of racism but +may+ represent at least an effort to acknowledge and address it.

I might also remind you that the Abolitionist arguments and the calmly reasoned decency of Frederick Douglass and others were like voices in the wilderness. They were so very correct in understanding the issues and pointing out the moral depravity that suffuses the public's views and actions, but they did not win a majority. They fought for justice _knowing_ that they could not win the majority on social justice grounds: that the religion of their opponents would justify their racism. This is an important fact as we approach 2018 where the _only_ argument is whether Trumpism will be given the same license it now enjoys.

How to win?
In certain places Democrats must run towards the arguments of conscience _and_ economics, reminding women in the suburbs and their own constituencies that they are the party of moral decency _and_ economic opportunity. But elsewhere, like what we saw in western PA, they must understand that racism is _structural_ and that the moral argument against Trump will be understood as a personal affront to their choice to vote for him. Democrats _might_ win on class economics and while whites may warrant being called racists by any serious analysis, they can still be won over by greed, personal interest, money first, what we like to call "pocketbook issues" because calling it more honestly doesn't feel good.

None of these strategies for victory addresses America's sins and the conversations we need to have. But America refuses to be serious about...most everything, especially things that require thought, education, and reflection. I am not sanguine this will ever happen. I am sure I don't want anymore Trumpism than we must endure. Vote them to the margins. To do that requires winning some votes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Vote Blankenship or Why No Persuasion Matters

Living in the wild with Trump voters I can assure you that _none_ of the Giuliani mayhem makes any difference to them. In fact, it serves a principal purpose: to put everything in terms of a partisan "witch hunt" that is nothing more than Clinton-like scandal contrived to defeat Trump. The key is there: to defeat Trump is to defeat their Lost Cause. It cuts that deeply, whether his supporters are aware of the connection or not. (And they largely are not.)

A few obvious facts--- most Trump voters not of the monied class pay no attention or watch only Fox. That 40%-ish is impenetrable, cast in stone, and so malignantly ignorant that they would volunteer for Trump's Fifth Avenue Shooting. What's more interesting to ask is why. The reasons are not new and what Trump/Giuliani are doing is as old as Jim Crow. It's plain as day, let's make it plainer.

Obama was right: they cling to guns and religion, which is a euphemism too for their grievance culture that has lost obsolete jobs, blames anyone but themselves, and knows quite well that their time has passed. The roots are far deeper than the Reaganomics that caused their financial decline and exacerbated their misery by redistributing wealth upward. The genius of Reagan was to convince white working class people that redistributing wealth via tax cuts to the rich was good for them. They have never been dissuaded, never understood "trickle down," and every time it fails, Republicans blame Democrats for taxes and spending on "those people." That brings us back to the Those People problem, which is an easy sell to white rural Americans.

Trump and Giuliani will create the distraction and disinformation (worthy of Goebbels) that is certainly important. it allows them to turn a legal set of facts into a political circus. But there is a far more serious cultural connection to post-Civil War southern policies that carried forward into resentment of the Great Society and ultimately Obama's Hope.

We are a nation that is half MLK and half KKK--- and the KKK half is in power and will burn down the republic to see to it that the MLK dream fails. I think we are just about evenly split between the MLK Party and the KKK Party. The uber-wealthy side with this Klannists because they can fleece them and everyone else, driven by pure greed and indifference.

Sting sold his duplex last weekend for 50 million bucks. One of the old Rockefellers landed 40 million more--- because there's nothing a Rockefeller needs more than 40 million more. But this is just a consequence, not the cause. The rich have already got theirs and will do what it takes to keep it that way---nothing new here. That is Old Republicanism.

The New Trumpism is the New KKK. Dedicated to local mob rule as the plantation owners tell their poor white neighbors who's _really_ to blame for their plight. Blankenship in WVa is that poster boy. The way to defeat them is to make sure that Trumpists do not use robes and masks to conceal their true intentions. Of course, that victory may yet be a tough road in WVa, even when they understand that the Klan needs instead to conceal itself more deftly in it's own grievance religion culture that allows the hate to look like a Fox show.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Pride of Ouachita Baptist University

Trump lies, Guiliani rants, Hannity squirms, and poor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the pride of Ouachita Baptist University Ouachita Baptist University (2004), suffers
the little children and the press because she finds out watching TV that everything she has been told is a lie. It's a shame she didn't come to that conclusion in the pews about twenty years back. But, alas, Sarah is the Believer, the Trump voter. Not the only sort, because there are even more venal and ignorant sorts, but the kind that has proven the most loyal, the Evangelical.

Trump was right yesterday when he declared America "a country of believers." What he knows is that a significant percentage of people, and all of his 89%, will believe anything that soothes their need to believe. People have a need to believe that far exceeds their abilities to assess the facts or address them rationally.

What we have always known may cause Sarah to shake and even stumble a bit, but it won't matter. It won't matter anymore than it does to, say, Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell who know it's fraud but are merely determined to fulfill their commitments to wealth redistribution. Nothing will move this Congress to act: no lie, no breach of decency, no report from Mueller. Nothing. They don't need Sarah's faith because they can add: the Kochs will provide their future. But what about the believers? Count on them to believe.

Of course, Trump has no plan. There never was any credibility. This is all simple fraud. But it's a lot harder to see when you have been raised to believe the machinations of Bronze Age goat herders telling tales of rising from the dead. You're well-primed in the will to believe whatever you are told when you have never questioned faith itself. For those with even a marginal grip on the implications of science, faith can be part of a complex art of the possible, a component in the making of a future by using predictive values to create change. What has happened allows you to believe in what might happen. But for the truly faithful, faith itself supplies the delusion; faith nurtures hope not in what is possible but rather in the assurance and consolation of what is not.

An incompetent narcissist is making it up as he goes along. And just like his entire bid for the presidency, the whole matter is the continuation of a publicity stunt gone awry. It's a circus act, a carnival tent with barker and charlatan preacher. It must have been quite the usual scene at Ouachita Baptist University.

Sarah Sanders wants more daddy, a savior who can't be wrong, who has her interests at heart, who will take on those intent on undermining her faith in faith itself. She wants to believe and nothing like the facts, deceptions or lies, nothing at all will change her faithful heart. Like so many Americans, reality is just too hard and faith is the necessary delusion to make it through until the next lie, the next huckster preacher tells her to rejoice because her reward will be great in heaven. It would be merely pathetic if it weren't bringing the country to ruin.